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07 October 2014


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Rex Brynen

Pat, if I understand this you are more crowd-sourcing, aggregating, and adjudicating forecasts (and then using those as baseline scenarios for the next turn) rather than playing this as a adversarial game, with players in teams/roles? Why not do it as the latter?

(Although running it as a series of scenario discussions can work too--I did something similar for the NTC in Libya during the civil war.)

If you do try the latter, I would be pleased to help (as a ME academic, former intel analyst, and gaming guy). If interested, shoot me an email.


Rex Brynen

No thank you. I had considered the other option and think it to be unwieldy in this medium pl


Summary of previous events:

- The US overthrows Saddam and liquidate Iraqi government structures. Iran promptly takes control of the new Baghdad government.
- A civil war, egged on by foreign Jihadis (AQ in Iraq) leads to Sunni-Shia ethnic cleansing. Iraqi Sunnis help the US get rid of AQ in Iraq.
- Iyad Allawi wins the election on a non-sectarian programme, but Iranian scheming ensures maintenance of Al-Maliki and his hardcore Shia regime. Sunnis not amused.
- Arab spring. Attempt at a revolution in Syria devolves into a nasty civil war with both secular and jihadist rebels. Iran throws the kitchen sink at defending Assad, at any cost. The rebels (both Islamists and non-Islamists), despite initial successes, are eventually checked.
- Suddenly a new brand of jihadis appear, even more ferocious and fanatical than other jihadis - Daesh. They apparently gain support from disgruntled Sunnis, including Baathist ex-generals. Out of the blue, they take on the Iraqi army head-on. The Iraqi army crumbles immediately. Daesh take control of a big chunk of Iraq.

Present state of play:

- Daesh controls over large swathes of Iraq and Syria. Right now they seem to be vying for full control of Sunni, Arab Iraq and northern Syria; beyond that, any limits to their appetite are unknown. They are building an administration, have gained weapons and fighters, and control of resources. Barring a large-scale intervention by one of the Big Players (US, Iran, Turkey), they seem to be there to stay.

- The Syrian government, massively helped by Iran, has now ensured its continued survival, at list in the medium term.

- The non-Islamist Syrian rebels (including the hapless FSA), and the non-Daesh Islamists (including AQ-aligned groups like Jabhat al Nusra), seem to be contained. They may keep control of local areas but do not seem to be constitute an existential danger for the Syrian government.

- The Iraqi Kurds have a half-full/half-empty bottle situation. They have near-independence, and they grabbed Mosul. But Daesh is a danger to them as well. Plus, the US have blocked them from reaching actual independence - by refusing to buy their oil directly and insisting that they honor agreements with the Baghdad government. Fortunately they found an unlikely patron in Turkey.

- Syrian Kurds: they're caught between the Daesh hammer and the Turkish anvil. See below.

- Iran is fearful of Daesh, but they might envision a future of "cold" coexistence between Daesh and a "Shia Empire" (including rump, Shia states in Syria and Iraq that would be fully under uncontested Iranian control). Difficulty: Karbala is right on the border, and Daesh may not resist the temptation to conduct operations against pilgrims/holy sites, which would put pressure on the Mollahs to intervene.

- Turkey is also wary of Daesh, but hates the Syrian government and the Syrian Kurdish groups (mostly aligned with PKK, or Iran) that Daesh is fighting so effectively. They are probably calculating that if Daesh gets too annoying, they can always take them out later at their convenience. In the meantime, why take the risks of confronting Daesh when they are essentially fighting Turkey's enemies? At best, the fall of northern Syria to Daesh might prod the US into acceding to Turkish demands in Syria - such as a no-fly zone.

- The US is tired of war and has no idea how to navigate the clusterf*ck of animosities between states that allowed the present mess to flourish. Would that they had realized this long ago. They are bombing Daesh, with apparently limited effect.

- Apparently France and other countries are also bombing Daesh. No idea what effect this has, if any.

- The so-called "Sunni tribes" (the people who essentially kicked out AQ-in-Iraq for us the first time around, only to be betrayed by the Iranian-backed government in Baghdad) may or may not represent a wildcard. IIUC they are currently sitting on the sidelines. I do not know whether Iraqi Sunnis that are not yet allied with Daesh have sufficient resources to effectively fight Daesh, if they chose to do so.

Rob Waddell

WG M1 08102014
Kobani close to falling to IS, black flags inside city.
98% civilian population has fled to close border of Turkey
3k 'YPG' (popular protection units) still defending city with aid of supplies from Turkey. These appears to be flowing after concessions made by Kurdish PYD to Turkey. Concession may require coalition with SFA.
US coalition airstrikes, especially in the defense of Kobani, appear ineffective without FO.
IS appear to have obtained optimum separation and distribution of their forces for the territory they control.


"Although IS and the coalition are the principal players, all those parties whose interests are involved in the contest can be introduced as additional players by participants."

Iraq-Syrian Sunnis, with political and survival goals currently allied to IS and its capable military forces.

Current situation, IS is establishing its borders with Turkey to the North, Sauds (the hated Green Banner Boys to the South (for now), Syria to the West of the Euphrates (thereby pulling IS forces back to their lines as Aleppo slowly gets sealed)and, (forecast deleted)

Babak Makkinejad

The assumption that "Iran is fearful of Daesh" is invalid, in my opinion.


Sounds great, I would love to participate, but I am not good at citing news sources to support my opinions, not that I don't have access to them, or do not follow them diligently, but I do not have the patience or discipline to support my comments backed by citations required for this practice. I can not commit, not knowing when I will leave for a length of time on a project.



I did not ask that you cite anything. pl

Margaret Steinfels


Forecast in the next turn. pl


Starting with Kobani, presently after three weeks IS has not reduced the town, a steady but slow infusion of PKK, Peshmerga and ex Turkish Army Kurdish conscrips bolsters the defenses and turns the battle of Kobani into a cauldron. The Turkish Army sits on the sidelines allowing Kurdish warfighters in but tense if IS overstep the mark into Turkey proper (such as a flanking manouver). The Turkish Army looks on, there is some mobilisation, but only enought to provide a sop to western politicians.

The Kurds give up asking the US/UK for air support, the battle carries on intensifying for a further three to four weeks before IS clashes with the Turkish Army. The battle grinds to a halt.

Presently in the South West of Iraq, IS advances from Heet towards BIA and Baghdad. The Iraqi Army caves each time, in four weeks leading elements of IS reach the Green Zone. US air support and attack helicopters are ineffectually used, US and other coalition units sporadically engage IS but there is no distinct political commitment from the coalition.

(You were asked to describe today's situation. accordingly I have deleted the forecasting material from this comment. you can submit it in the next turn. pl )


IS will continue to expand and consolidate the territory under their control, but as it expands geometrically, the cost of maintaining and expanding it will rise exponentially. As will the resistance to their expansion. At some point they will run out of resources. It may take months for that to happen, but their "business model" has a limited upside, mainly consisting of looting and extortion.



you were asked to describe today's situation in this turn. forecast in the next. pl

Babak Makkinejad

I beg your pardon.



US official said that preventing the take-over of cities was not focus of the US, but "a deliberate, well thought-out campaign in Syria to disrupt ISIS command and control, destroy the group's infrastructure and attack sources of fuel and financing for ISIS"

Turkish parliament authorized the use of military force in Iraq and Syria

Turkey’s stated goal in Syria is to set up a buffer zone that will allow it to safeguard its borders from terrorist attacks. Kurds counter that the true goal is to prevent an autonomous region for them like Iraqi Kurds have.

Turkish tanks arrayed on hill overlooking Kobane

US airstrikes doing little to change situation

IS encroaching on perimeter of Kobane. Turkey allowing supplies to reach Kurds there.

Erdogan said Kurds in Kobane are free to cross border into Turkey

50-60 lightly armed Turkish Special Forces are in the Turkish territorial exclave Tomb of Suleiman Shah. TSF chief is trying to persuade govt. to remove them.

30% Turks believe IS is not a terrorist group

Up to 10% IS members are Turks.

dilbert dogbert

I was wondering if it was a world game till I looked closer at the title of your post. I don't know Jack about IS/Coalition so will have my bag of peanuts and be reading the action from the peanut gallery.
I will add my silly guess that IS will run up against the limits of growth - the money runs out and starts looting the areas it controls to continue expansion. To me that will be "Game Over".


Colonel, Please tell me what was my mistake? Did get too ahead of myself? You deleted me.



As I wrote in the instructions, this initial turn is about your present view of the situation. Next turn is for forecasting. pl

Dave Schuler

I concur with toto's assessment above except that I would add that the overthrow of Qaddafi with the connivance of US/UK/France convinced the Russians that the US was unconcerned about destabilizing MENA.


who is "SFA"



Hopefully this is laid out correctly:

The War of the Caliphate
IS and its allies
IS jihadists, various numbers up to 30K in the regions previously described on SST or other linked sites. Sunni tribes and former Iraq army battle hardened professionals (Saddam era). “Volunteers” of various AQ groups, Free Syrian Army deserters and a hodge-podge of wannabes (from here on the “not so fast” Balal commandos).

Operations along the border near Kobane are a distraction that serves to divert coalition air power while IS continues deploying the ‘professionals” along with 5th columns in and around BIA and the Green Zone. There are multiple operations of the Balal commandos. The later further demoralize the ISF and their political and civilian support.

Information operations: “The only good infidel is a dead infidel”
IS continues to round up the usual suspects among surrendered ISF units and in captured towns. A few dead infidels on Youtube continue to "get in the minds" of the Western Media and the 'mind' of the coalition's political commanders and ISF troops.

Economics. IS has billions in cash, as well as a force not motivated by paychecks and pension plans. The continued market support for oil sales will provide the funding needed in the short term. Funding is still coming from ransom and sympathetic gulf supporters.

Diplomacy IS continues to work to seek recognition from leaders in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE and across North Africa which undermines support for the coalition.

The anti-IS coalition:
The US, “NATO” various gulf states ( – the new dominoes), Iraq and indirectly Iran.
US – President Obama has already hamstrung the coalition with “No boots on the ground". Air power has been ineffective in stopping IS. Other than France and some UK units there is no force projection capability from NATO members and all of the latter's former Warsaw Pact members are demanding troop deployments to their countries to defend against the Russian Federation (due to US backed actions in Ukraine).

Iraq –their ground forces are shattered as bad as the 11th corps at Chancellorsville. If backed up (heavily) they might stand their ground like 11th at Gettysburg, for just about as long. Without the airfields around the capital the risks to the Iraqi government coalition is high. The effect on the combat abilities of the ISF in uncertain but likely to be very, very bad.

Other anti-IS factions:
Syria/Hezbollah - figting for survival against the US backed FSA and IS.
Iran - supports the Iraq government with some advisors, air units and possibly limited ground troops.
Turkey - playing both sides as has been commented on here.
Russian Federation - backing Syria and a potential ally IF the US were to adopt a real strategic viewpoint.

Wildcard - Israel. Influencing US government actions with IO operations which are contributing negatively to coalition actions against IS. The continued settlement expansion and Gaza blockade are further negative actions which damage the anti-IS operation.

Ishmael Zechariah

Turkish SITREP 10/7/14

Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) is on partial alert with 5 brigades mobilized and moving to the Syrian border.

Turkish intelligence assets, already with close ties to the Daash, are monitoring internal security.

Kurdish separatists, i.e, the PeKeKe, are executing low level terrorist attacks: burning schools, killing a few policemen here and there, damaging statues and parks, to show the tayyiban that they are still "potent". Their capo and cadres are trying to stay relevant by issuing communiques that no one seems to give a damn about.

50%+ of Turkish population does not buy the idea that they have a dog in this fight. All who voted against tayyip and his regime are holding these salafist kleptocrats responsible for the current mess.

The tayyiban are trying to "rent" TSK to acquire funds and to have debt forgiveness so that the internal economy stays stable.

Biden first accuses tayyip & co and then recants and apologizes, leaving quite a few people puzzled about what the hell is going on.

Russia and Iran have warned tayyip & co. about trying for regime change in Syria.

The shivaree is about to begin.

Ishmael Zechariah


IS internal consolidation
Previously separated sub-emirates of "iraq" and "Syria" are progressively dismantled to the benefit of a new structure of "provinces" like "wilaya al-Firat" - deputies al-Hayyali (Iraq) and al-Anbari (Syria) to Caliph Ibrahim are becoming less important and interchangeable. Ex-Baathists are counter-balanced by the Sharia Council (copied from AQ organizations, ilk al-Nusra's under al-Juburi).
An administration is emerging - centered first around the hisba and qadha; supervision and provision of services is added (SWIFT system might still function out of certain Mosul branches). Indoctrination of the population and the civil servants is starting, aided by occasional acts of brutality.
Formal pardon of deserting (sunni) soldiers and officers extended to civil servants has led to reactivation of former state cadres. But they are no longer free to consider themselves members of the Baath party, first and foremost they must be sworn followers of IS.
IS controls large stocks of food; estimates range to 50% of the Syrian and 40% of the Iraqi annual consumption. People look to where the daily khubs is coming from.
Holding of regular public loyalty swearing ceremonies in public.

Attempts to reintegrate within the Al-Qaida movement
Reach-out to Ahrar al-Sham is successful - dozens of groups sign on to what they perceive as the better alternative.
Relationship with Al-Nusra becomes rivalry on several levels, competition is not over the same areas.
Linakge to AQ secured by al-Qaduli.
IS recognizes that the announcement of a reunification / take-over of Ansar al-Islam at the end of Ramadhan has led to loss of influence and reach inside Kurdish areas; retraction of unification declaration by Ansar al-Islam is left out in the open, no IS comment. IS accepts to have them march separately in order to strike jointly later. No expansion into KRG territory is planned now, IS requires capacity of support network to threaten terrorist attacks.

Lemuel Vargas

The Kurds in Kobane has started the house to house fighting on the outskirts as the ISIS continues its advance. Meanwhile, the coalition air strikes bomb the vulnerable assets such as tanks and artillery pieces of ISIS, w/c gives hope to the Kurdish fighters and demoralization to the ISIS fighters, especially when the coalition planes struck during the night. The ISIS fighters becomes helpless when they suddenly were confronted by the reality that not even night is their friend anymore.

-my present view of the situation on this day 10/7...


At Handarat, the last supply line available into rebel held Aleppo, the Syrian army may have taken control.

An FSA member said US bombing was not appreciated as it could look like the US was aiding the FSA, and IS could

retaliate against FSA. He also said US should be bombing Assad.

Syrian troops making progress on east and northeast side where Assad's administrative district is.

South of Dascus near Golan Heights a joint Russian-Syrian spy station was found by FSA in newly gained territory.

Suspected spying on KSA, Jordan, and Israel.

Being armed by US with Saudi money.

There have been skirmishes on Lebanon side of border between Hezbollah and IS/JAN

Hezbollah stresses Shiite-Sunni unity

Hezbollah blast killed two Israelis on southern border; Israel retaliated with bombs

Has problem with home-grown Islamists

"...Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said on CNN that he doubted Jordan will commit ground troops in the fight against ISIS. "The U.S. will have to take the lead in providing military strikes," he said.

One of Jordan's key roles would be providing intelligence to the West, Muasher...stressed that Jordan's intelligence on ISIS is "second to none."" -CNN (7 October 2014)


The Kurdish fighters has started the house to house fighting on the outskirts of Kobane as the ISIS continues its advance.

Meanwhile, the coalition planes has kept on bombing the vulnerable assets of ISIS such as tanks and artillery pieces, giving hope to the Kurds and demoralization on the ISIS fighters, especially when the coalition planes struck at night. The ISIS fighters suddenly were confronted by the reality that not even night is their friend anymore.

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